Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Difference between Crestron and Control4

History of the Industry
The industry started evolving rapidly back in the eighties. Two Control companies (Crestron and AMX) were the dominant players in the control industry back then. I say control because this what its all about. The reason that we are talking today and companies like ours exist is because of one primary industry feature. That is control or in other words feedback. Being able to see information that relates to what the components are doing whether they are an FM Tuner, a dimmer, a thermostat, an alarm system etc. and be able to manipulate the state of those devices based on the information that we are receiving on an interface (Touch-screen or remote) is what this industry was built on. Granted, audio distribution throughout the house also evolved and remote technologies in general but without control there would simply not be any reason for you to have speakers throughout your home if you could not access the music and send it to those locations independently with independent control within those areas.

So back in the day Crestron and AMX developed an interface. A touch-screen that via a graphic user interface (GUI) was able to relate information to a main controller that had on board relays and IR ports and Serial ports etc. the foundation of control. Since windows were not around back then, the programming was performed via a programming language called C++. Multiple pages of code had to be written for people to lower a projector in a board room back then but you can imagine the impact this had in the industry.

Other companies followed and developed their own interfaces but none of them was based on C++ and were much less expensive and complicated in comparison to those two primary companies. The industry moved forward with Crestron and AMX catering to the very affluent people that could afford that unique system design and interface and they got much more involved in Lighting Control and climate control and shade control etc. The ability that the programmers had to create their own unique interfaces moved these two companies to an area that they were all alone with no real competition. Of course I also want to mention that this was a very costly system that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lot of cases. In the 90s a company called Elan became a lot more active in this field. Elan was an audio company that used to make amplifiers, tuners, volume controls etc. and that developed a windows based program for their interface which was a touch screen called Via!. A revolutionary interface that was able to do almost everything a Crestron or AMX interface could. The main exception was that the graphics on this touch-screen were not as customizable as the other two companies. But because Elan was primarily an audio company they developed in house their own amplifiers, switchers, controllers, FM Tuners etc. which gave them an edge and enabled people to own Crestron/AMX similar systems for a lot less.

If you ask me personally, I say that this was the beginning of it all. Value came in to play in this industry. Elan could do lighting control, climate control, shade control anything pretty much that a Crestron system or AMX system could do with the only exception… Custom graphics. And of course people still spent a lot more money to have Crestron or AMX two products that because they happened to begin their evolution early and in the right field they were sold by the companies that sold them as the Best.


History of Control 4

In 2004 a company was being developed. Their mission was to utilize the IP revolution which had started pretty much right after the year 2002 and make this product affordable and simple to use. Their goal was to have a product that runs on its own IP network. A product that its platform would be so open and un-restrictive that it could be scaled. A product that would not be utilizing external devices made by other companies for anything from lighting to climate to AV. That company is Control 4.

You have to remember that companies such as Crestron, Amx and Elan used external company components to achieve a complete system. For example Crestron built their own touch-screens and controllers but installers had to sell Lutron for lighting, Sonance or Niles for amplification, Key Digital or Autopatch for audio video switchers and Aprilaire smart thermostats for climate control. As a matter of fact up until last year Crestron remote controls were not made by Crestron themselves but by a company called URC. The same remote that you could buy from a URC dealer for $500 you had to spend $1000 for that remote control to carry the Crestron Logo and it still did not provide the user with Feedback on it (feedback is to be able to see what preset station the tuner is at or which mp3 you are listening to). What I am saying is that Crestron basically subbed out everything except the one thing that they were best at. Which is Interfaces (Touch-screens). Pretty similar path had AMX with the main exception that AMX purchased companies and further developed their product lines to match their systems. Elan even though it had all the AV and control equipment designed and built they were lacking in the feed back aspect of the their systems because they could not fully control internal or external components with a “pretty” interface (primitive looking graphics).

Control 4 in the other hand, designed and developed their own lighting devices, their own thermostats and their own complete line of audio visual components. Everything from audio switchers to 3 revolutionary IP based digital amplifiers to remote controls, touch-screens etc. But the most important thing that Control 4 did from the start in my opinion is the Graphic user interface on the TV's themselves. No other company had ever thought of the simplicity that this brings to the homeowner, their wife, children, parents etc. Control 4 aimed for simplicity. The same intuitive interface to follow you around the house whether you are holding a hand held remote control or a touch-screen, or an I-PAD or simply look at your TV set and navigate through its simple menu.

I am sure that I am boring you at this point but what I am explaining is that just like Crestron and AMX paved the way in our industry and carried it forward for 20 years, the same exact way Control 4 re-invented our industry and is now paving the way for the next 30. There is nothing that this system cannot perform within a very reasonable scalable budget and with the simplicity that enables the user to not have to worry about what to press and which sub-menu to enter but it just lets them enjoy it every day easy.

BY: Panos Anassis


  1. I don't ever remember programming a Crestron or AMX system in C++. Where did you come up with that?

    Crestron also has a full complement of lighting, amplification etc but doesn't restrict you to only using their stuff. So I am free to select Lutron or Crestron lighting.

  2. Crestron and Amx before windows based programming was developed used a programming language that was based on C+ and C++. For example Crestron has code called SIMPL and SIMPL+ which its founded on C+ and C++. C++ is a programming language that is used to write sophisticated code to carry out specialized or difficult tasks in multimedia applications. What i am explaining above is that Crestron and AMX code is derivative to C++.

    Regarding the lighting, amplification etc. Crestron has utilized other Company's products along side with their own in house designed products and put a label on them. That is not un-common in our industry but the example i was setting is that Control 4 since day one designed and produced their own in house products, everything from their remote controls to their dimmers and keypads.

    Please do not assume that i have something against Crestron, they are a pioneer in this industry with fantastic products that are very capable, at the same time i am a value driven individual just like the majority of people out there and Crestron is now starting to turn to value with the prodigy. However, if it was not for Control4, people would still pay extraordinary amounts of money for a simple automation system design.

    Thanks for reading!!


  3. Control4's Graphic user interface on the TV's is brilliant! Having these options i.e. touchscreen, Ipad or Iphone is paramount; and these options do not come with a huge price tag.

  4. well put!! Control 4 gives you lots of options at a decent cost :)

  5. I have a Control 4 system and have had nothing but problems. I would never recommend it!! I am planning on switching it out with a Crestron system.

  6. Sorry to hear that... but maybe you didnt have the right installation company. you should contact Control 4 directly and tell them your problems and they can assist you better.

    1. You definitely got a bad dealer which they should be dropped and probably have been by now. Hopefully you contacted C4 directly... if not then don't know what to tell you - it's no different than buying a car and not doing anything about an issue. Control4 products come with a 2 year warranty which you are still covered as I reply to your comment.

  7. Being in the A/V industry I've heard both good and bad things about Control4. Their prices are really inexpensive and they have a large amount of control products.

    The interface for a Control4 system is not customizable. This means everyone gets the same graphics on the touchscreen. Maybe not a big deal to some, but it's confusing when there are options on the screen that you don't have in your home. Crestron offers the programmer the ability to use any graphics they want, so you can have a completely customized interface. Having an on-screen interface on your TV is nice, and Crestron has them as well, but if you're holding a remote in your hand why not just use the remote to do what you want? Isn't that one of the reasons why it's touch sensitive?

    Control4 and Crestron both can do multi-room audio distribution. If audio distribution is all you're looking for then a Control4 system can do the job to a point. Control4 has a systemic problem with their control processors which max out after about 24 rooms. If you throw too much data on their IP network the processor slows down and can crash. A Crestron system, on the other hand, can handle systems as small as a home theater or grow to handle a university/military compound.

    Both Control4 and Crestron can do video distribution. Crestron was the first video distribution company to manufacture a video distribution system which brings video over CAT5. Crestron's Digital Media (DM) line can bring any type of video signal to any TV and the number of TVs is not limited using CAT5/6 (network cable) and the video will be 1080p.
    Control4's video distribution system is limited to component video. Control4 does not have any product which will distribute HDMI video.

    As of 2012, Crestron manufactures their own components for digital audio & video distribution, climate control, lighting, touchscreens, handheld remotes, shade controls, security systems, speakers and more. Everything you need to properly automate a home or office is available through Crestron.

    There is no arguing about price. Control4 wins hands down. Crestron hardware does come with a price tag but it also comes as the most reliable hardware I have ever seen.

    I fully admit my bias in posting this, but do try to keep an open and flexible mind with other automation & control lines.

  8. As a Dealer for both C4 and Crestron I can certify without a shadow of any doubt that C4 is the lesser priced solution, although with anything in this world the best costs more. Why else would you buy a BMW when a Hyundai is a very good car. The reliability and scalability of Crestron is hands down why it is still the industry standard. (When you buy Crestron hardware you are getting the same product designed and built for goverment and large commercial project, not a value engineered product.) Has C4 changed the way people purchase Control in their homes? Absolutely. Does everyone need a custom interface? Absolutely Not. The best Crestron dealers create there own basic interface in which becomes there standard platform for Crestron projects. This keeps the cost of writing completely custom code for each project to a minimum, a good dealer should always operate this way (unless you only do the ubber expensive projects) The problem with C4 programming for me as a Dealer is I have to adopt there platform and then train the client to adjust to them. I know for Distributed video and audio it is just not as user friendly as I can provide with my Crestron Solution, and remember probably 80% of control system buyers are not tech people, read blogs, or remotely interested in the fine points - They want a realiable system they understand how to use - that always works when they want to enjoy it.
    I like personally both solutions. I still have a basic C4 system in my house, and it gets used each day. The remotes are kid proof, and for what I really use it works very well 90% of the time. (and my wife hates it the other 10%)
    Both offer clients a good overall system, but there is a definite point on when system complexity, not necessarily only system size make Crestron a far superior choice. - and on average 15% - 30% more it still makes perfect sense. Also, remember Crestron is no where near as Network dependent as C4, largely in-part of the amount of data being communicated over the network all of the time with the controllers communicating - this has to be considered properly upfront to successfully implement a C4 system that will be as robust as it can be.
    Bottom line though - hire the best Integrator that you trust to support you for the years to come. Both systems will adapt to the new technologies you will come to want to add in the years ahead, and for that you will need your dealer to help you add them to your system.

  9. As a C4 dealer and former AMX and Vantage Dealer, I can honestly say C4 is the best bang per buck. One main reason as an example, if a Crestron install is $100k, you can do it for $40k with C4. And customization is now in the hands of flash designers. I could care less about interface customization - I care about product integration, reliability, and compatibility.
    Control4 has done this and is still growing.

    With a few minor product development needs like fan speed control, they will soon be the industry leader. Also notice I'm not posting anonymously.

  10. There are many companies are coming up with Innovative solutions may beat C4. Not sure, but withing 2 to 3 years market will be more flexible with "Internet of Things". Best part is consumer will be benefited...

    Installation done my 40K by C4 can be 5K with same Quality and more options.

    Wish all the best to all new companies; for better future...

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  12. please how much it cost two package for important

  13. With all of these smart devices, it was only a matter of time until they all became connected by a network in your house. Home automation is like having a "smart house." It's actually really cool technology. You should get a professional to consult you on how to network everything so it works seamlessly.

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    Great suggestions ! I love this blog, but can’t lay there all day everyday :-)
    Thank You Very Much for posting this.. :)

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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